How to Fix a Push-Button Plug

Pushbutton plugs are more often referred to as GFCI.

Please Note: Do not use this procedure if you are not certain that you can complete it safely, or if it does not seem accurate. Skippity Whistles provides this information as advice, and cannot accept any liability from your usage of it.

Uh oh, that thing you plugged into the wall won’t work. Let’s keep calm and sort this out.

There are basically two types of wall sockets you can plug your device in to: a standard wall socket, and a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) socket. If you want to impress your friends, just tell them you’ll check the GFCI.

A standard socket looks like, well, like a socket. It might have USB charging ports in it, too.

Push the RESET Button

A GFCI socket has rectangular buttons in the middle.

To reset it, push the button labeled RESET. Your device should now work.

If the GFCI clicks again, and it might, unplug the item, and push RESET again. This time it should stay clicked. If it doesn’t, there’s something wrong with the GFCI itself and you need to call The Man.

If it stays clicked, plug your item into it again. If it clicks, you know there’s something wrong with your device.

James Bond fries a guy in a bathtub because there was not GFCI plug.

About Push-Button Plugs

The term GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. The socket protects you from getting electrocuted if, for example, you drop an electric fan into your bathtub (James Bond did it in Goldfinger to fry a bad guy. I mean, look at that guy!). The GFCI immediately senses that the fan is shorting out, and cuts off electricity to it. It also works if there’s a broken wire in any device you plug into it.

Wall Plug Troubleshooter

Now that we know how the GFCI works, and how to reset it, it wouldn’t hurt to look at what to do if you plug something in and it just doesn’t work. If you’re game, here a troubleshooter that you can use. Start at Step 1, and keep going until your device works.

Step 1- Make sure the device is plugged in. Say you have a retro ’90’s boom box you want to use. You hit PLAY to start the CD, but nothing happens. It sounds simple, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure it’s plugged into the wall, and that the other end of the power cord is firmly seated in the device.

Step 2- Make sure the device is switched on. Sometimes the thing might have a second switch, or you might have to hold down the button or somethin. Make sure you know how to turn the thing on.

Step 3-  Check the wall switches. Some rooms are designed with a wall switch that control the plugs, so you can turn on a lamp from a hallway.

A GFCI, or pushbutton plug, has two buttons.

Step 4-  Take a closer look at the socket. If it looks the image, it’s a GFCI – go to Step 7.

Step 5- If it’s a standard socket, find and plug in something that you know works into the socket. If it works, the problem is with your retro boom box. Or, you could take your retro boom box to another plug and try it there. If it still doesn’t work, again, it’s the boom box.

Step 6- If it’s a standard socket, reset the circuit breaker. Find the circuit panel for that wall. It’s a gray metal box with a hinged cover. It might also be a flat gray panel set into the wall. It could in the kitchen , the laundry room, or the garage. If it’s an older place, it might be outside, under the electric meter.

NOTE: We seem to be getting far afield here, right? You just want your device to work. Two things: it’s seriously easy to check your circuit breakers, and, if you call The Guy, he’s going to check them anyway. If one is tripped, he’ll charge you like $75 to do what you can do for free.

NOTE: When you find the panel, you’ve found the place where electricity is distributed to the house. Although it is not inherently dangerous, it does pose some risk if you don’t take it seriously. Be careful, and don’t do this step if hazards, such as falling rain, are present. Don’t do this during an electrical storm. Use common sense and you’ll be just fine.

Each circuit breaker in the panel controls a different part of your place. They should all point the same way. If one doesn’t, that’s the issue. Make sure your boom box is still plugged in, and then snap the tripped circuit breaker over to look like the other ones.

If it snaps right back, unplug your boom box and try it again.

If it snaps right back, there’s an issue with the wall plug, and you’re going to have to call The Man.

If it doesn’t snap back, you know the problem is with your boom box. Should have left it in the ’90’s,

Step 7- If it’s a GFCI receptacle, go back to beginning of this article to see how to reset it.

That’s it. You are now an electrical guru, and you know what GFCI stands for!

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